|REP. PAUL CROWLEY (ap/file 2006)|
PROVIDENCE - Representative Paul Crowley, the longest-serving Democrat in the Rhode Island House, died of skin cancer yesterday at his home in Newport, a legislative spokesman said.
Representative Crowley, 57, who owned La Forge Casino Restaurant, was first elected to office in 1981 and served as deputy chairman of the House Finance Committee. Much of his legislative career was spent trying to improve Rhode Island's school districts.
He backed a law that created annual school evaluations, and he supported consolidating Rhode Island's school districts to save money. He also backed charter schools, pushed for increased vocational education, and wanted more predictable state funding for education.
Governor Don Carcieri ordered state flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Mr. Crowley.
"Paul Crowley was a legislator who served the public well, with a legendary work ethic and a decades-long commitment to improving education," Carcieri said in a written statement.
Representative Crowley mentored Patrick Kennedy when Kennedy won a seat in the Rhode Island House in 1988. Kennedy is now a congressman.
"He really had this old Irish-Catholic sense of social justice to him," Kennedy said. "That made him a voice for the state's poorest children and their education. He would plow ahead through any bureaucracy and through any legislative process to fight for those kids."
Representative Crowley leaves his wife, Diana, a daughter, and two sons.